The Financial Reporting Council’s debate on choice and competitiveness in the
UK is primarily an audit issue. But some partners from other service lines are
beginning to wonder whether its knock-on effects could be more broad.
Corporate financiers are among those questioning its possible impact. Their
feeling is that if people are talking about whether or not you have to go to the
Big Four to be audited, do you then have to go to the Big Four for non-audit
John Breach, corporate finance partner at BDO Stoy Hayward, takes that view.
Breach recently led a BDO team that closed a £20m deal for Woolworths. The
mid-tier firm recently advised the FTSE 250 giant and its subsidiary
Entertainment UK on the acquisition of entertainment wholesaler Total Home
The BDO partner believes that without the Oxera debate his firm could well
have missed out on the chance to work with such a large listed company.
‘The Oxera report has certainly opened up opportunities for us. It has made
big listed companies more aware of the alternatives and it has seen them look
beyond the same group of advisers,’ Breach said.
Ian Smart, head of corporate finance at Grant Thornton, also believes Oxera
has undermined the orthodoxies, but says that there are other factors.
‘Oxera certainly has been a stimulus to challenge mindsets, but the idea that
only certain advisers can work on certain deals has been challenged well before
Oxera,’ he said.
Smart feels the rise of the corporate finance boutique has proved a far more
powerful force for change in the corporate finance market.
The trend would certainly not be entirely new. Fears about conflicts of
interest between audit and non-audit have been driving a broadening of the
markets for a while, or at least that is the perception.
BDO itself picked up MG Rover work last year when all the other big firms
were conflicted out.